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Jazz Guitar Today Interview with Guitarist and Educator, Bill Hart




Having educated over 5000 guitarists in the past 30 years, Bill Hart continues to open new doors. Video Interview with Bob Bakert.

Bob: Bill you basically built the guitar department at the Atlanta Institute of Music from the ground up, as well as wrote the curriculum for the school. Could you elaborate on your experience?

Bill: Well in the early 80s I moved to Los Angeles and attended the Musicians Institute. Which at the time, guitar was at its peak and everybody who was anybody was in Los Angeles. I was very fortunate to become close friends with a lot of great players. And studied under guys like Joe Pass, Joe Diorio, Scott Henderson and Don Mock to name a few. Point being the Atlanta Institute of Music started out as a satellite branch of the Musicians Institute, GIT. The original name of the Atlanta Institute of Music was GVW, Guitar Video Workshop. I was at GVW before it became the Atlanta Institute of Music and started from day one with Jimmy Herring and I.

Larry Carlton and Bill Hart at the Velvet Note in Atlanta.

Bob: In the early days the Atlanta Institute of Music, was it known as somewhat of a jazz school. Would you concur with that? 

Bill: Not 100%. Not to sound cliché, but Jazz really is the language of music. If you listen to jazz guitar today versus jazz guitar in the past you will see it has a lot of the same elements with other influences. And that really is what Jazz Guitar today sounds like. It covers everything in music from site reading, styles, time signatures, chord voicings, Harmony, Melody, and Theory. Just about everything that exists in music can be covered in Jazz. 

Bob: With six CDs under your name, “Bill Hart Band” two-time Grammy nominee, touring Europe and South America, also I read you were awarded a letter from the Embassy in Venezuela for your contributions to music in their country. The category you are labeled under most often is Jazz. Your music sounds great but is definitely not traditional jazz guitar. What was the path you took to develop your unique style?

Bill: I started out as a rock, blues player. My three main rock influences were Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour. They all offered three different things that I admired about playing guitar. The Soul, the Composition and the Feel. I was in love with the way Jimmy Page would compose music. I knew he studied jazz. One day at Alan Collins house (guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd) Jimmy Page called and talk to Alan. When they got off the phone, Alan said 

“that kat plays all the black keys, meaning those jazz chords”. Alan Collins

Bill: I don’t really consider myself a jazz player. I do like playing it and studying it because of what it offers me musically. 

Bill Hart instructing a class at AIM.

Bob: That makes sense. So, understanding the connection between Page and Jazz did you just learn Zeppelin tunes or what steps did you take to incorporate that into your music? 

Bill: I didn’t learn any Zeppelin tunes until later on. I was more interested in the Jazz concepts. I studied under Gary Starling who taught at the Jacksonville University in Florida. He is an amazing jazz guitarist and teacher. Every lesson I took with Gary opened up new doors in music. 

Another big impact on me at the same time was hearing the album Wired by Jeff Beck. Once I heard that it was all over for me. I knew what I wanted to listen to and how I wanted to play.

Bob: You’re responsible for teaching over 5000 students of whom some have become very commercially successful and famous. What do you think is unique about you as a teacher verse a performer?

Bill: The players I studied with like Mike Stern, Don Mock, Joe Diorio, etc. are not only great teachers but have had successful performing and recording careers. This taught me not only to be a recording artist and performer but to give back through teaching. I love teaching because not only am I giving back, but I also learn so much from my students. They are always asking me questions I may not think of on my own. Which actually inspires and ignites my own practicing. Not only am I offering information to the student, but I feel like they are offering so much more back to help me grow musically as well. Some of the guys I had the pleasure of teaching were Tosin Abasi, Kyle cook with Matchbox 20 along with a list of guys I can’t keep up with. But it is such an honor to see people persevere in their careers and follow their dreams. 

Bill Hart

Bob: You have also written a great book published by Hal Leonard titled “Solo Jazz Guitar”. Could you elaborate?

Bill: I wrote several books for the Atlanta Institute of Music to have their curriculums updated. Hal Leonard received a copy of the chord melody book I wrote for the Institute. They wanted to add it to their repertoire and distribute it. I pick the tunes that would cover several different styles including Ballads, Bossa Nova, Bebop, Waltz, and Standards. From my experience, I found that studying chord melody is one of the best things one can do in music. It teaches you a deep understanding of what is involved not just melodically but harmonically and opens your ears to help with your own compositions.  The book is endorsed by Steve Khan, Jimmy Herring, and Mike Stern. 

Bob: Thanks Bill for letting me interview you for Jazz Guitar Today. Any closing thoughts? 

Bill: Thank you, Bob, for having me. I would conclude with Jazz Guitar Today is about the future and learning from our past.

For more on Bill Hart.

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